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Townhomes get one last reprieve

The developer of the Hazelton Townhomes, 750 Third St. N, did not fix problems by a Feb. 28 deadline. Demolition has been delayed, but optimism has faded.

By JON WILSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- It died, it revived. It was placed on a list of properties scheduled for demolition. Then it won a stay of execution.

The Hazelton Townhomes project in the Old Northeast is proving harder to kill than Rasputin.

The five-unit development at 750 Third St. N has never progressed much beyond its foundation-and-plywood stage. Workers have come and gone. Rain and humidity have battered exposed walls outside. Neighbors have complained.

Last summer, city officials revoked the project's building permit, citing slow progress, poor workmanship and deterioration of some existing work.

But the developer, Ross Scopelliti of Tampa-based Palm Springs Developers Inc., negotiated to continue the 12,500-square-foot project. In October, the City Council said okay.

As part of an agreement, Scopelliti had until Feb. 28 to correct flaws on the development's first and second floors, pass building inspections, finish a third floor, install doors and windows and put on a roof.

"That just didn't happen," said Bob Miles, the city's building demolition coordinator.

As a result, officials set a March 26 demolition date.

And that set off a flurry of appearances by the developer to get the demolition postponed.

A judge denied Scopelliti's request for an injunction on March 16.

Then Fort Lauderdale-based Bank Atlantic, which financed the project, went before the City Council last week to ask for a demolition postponement.

The council wouldn't grant it.

Meanwhile, to make sure all the negotiations could play out, the demolition date had been reset for Monday of this week.

But Friday afternoon, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thomas Penick heard the bank's plea and granted a 20-day stay.

"The purpose was to allow the bank to have some people look at it. They want to determine whether they can preserve some of the investment that's already been made," said chief assistant city attorney Mark Winn.

Scopelliti could not be reached for comment.

Although the development has a new clock running, city officials appear reluctant to let it win still another life.

With the agreement last fall, there had been hope the townhomes would get back on track, Miles said.

But that optimism has all but vanished.

Said Miles: "To see what the project has gone through for the last year and a half, and see what it has gone through weatherwise and workmanwise . . . it would take a considerable amount of time just to correct what's there."

Building official Milton Massanet couldn't be reached for comment.

But, Miles said, "At this point, the building official is not seeing any dialogue to salvage the building."

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